Yule never guess Idina's reason for Christmas album

IDINA MENZEL: "Since I had my son, the holidays have been a more joyful time"
PICTURE: Robin Wong


FROZEN star Idina Menzel recorded a Christmas album last year . . . because she is Jewish.

Idina, who tours the UK next month, told the Jewish Telegraph, with tongue in cheek: "Every Jewish person wishes they celebrated Christmas. It's more fun."

But the 43-year-old added: "It's the most beautiful music and melodies. You grow up hearing it."

The resulting album, Holiday Wishes, was a stop-gap. Idina explained: "I wanted to record an album and get in the studio, but I was in the middle of (Broadway musical) If/Then, so there wasn't time to write original music.

"I was exploring holidays in a new way. I come from a divorced family so the holidays were an emotional time. Since I had my son, the holidays have been a more joyful time."

Taking five-year-old son Walker Nathaniel Diggs on tour with her has changed life on the road for Idina.

"There's only so much I can prepare," she said. "If he's going to keep me up all night because of the change in time-zones, then I might not be in the best voice that night.

"But what am I supposed to do? My show won't be perfect all the time, but it will move you."

Idina found fame when she originated the role of Maureen Johnson in the Broadway musical Rent in 1995.

She reprised the role 10 years later for the film adaptation.

She has had countless other stage, TV and film roles, but is a heroine to millions of children for providing the voice of Elsa in the Disney classic Frozen.

The film's success has seen Idina's audience change drastically.

"Ever since Rent, each defining project and role has garnered a very young audience," she said.

"I've always had to figure out how to negotiate and navigate a wide demographic.

"I'm a 43-year-old woman on stage and I swear. Then I realise there's a mum in the front row with her eight-year-old daughter.

"But I have to be myself, too. That's the challenging thing."

Frozen's hit song Let It Go became an instant classic, which caught out Idina.

"I was surprised at its impact," she told me. "I knew it was a beautiful song, but I had no idea it would become this phenomenon.

"It's wonderful to have a song that's heightened my profile. It speaks to me as a woman and is a reminder of things I need to learn - for instance, the idea of not hiding those things that make us really powerful."

Idina said that at the start of her career she had "more courage or belief in who I was back then.

"I knew I was going to do something special with my life and people would know who I was because of my acting and singing.

"As you get older, you become more aware of the world and what people are saying about you. It can be more paralysing.

"I try to harness that younger self sometimes, the one that wouldn't take no for an answer."

Idina hopes that anyone attending her UK shows - in Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Wembley - feels that she has connected with them.

"I'm most proud of my ability to give a very intimate performance so people feel they get to know me," she said.

"It's important that even though I'm on a different level and my profile has gotten bigger because of Frozen that I'm able to connect with every person in the audience.

"I try to be honest and authentic and allow for spontaneity."

Idina added: "Whether I'm in green make-up or wearing jeans, I still have to take a risk and make myself vulnerable in front of a live audience.

"Every show and character project is a different part of a time in my life.

"A different song can hit me in a different way on a different night.

"I want every audience to feel they got something particular and specific for that city."

Idina doesn't believe that a tour is much different from performing in a Broadway show.

She told me: "You have to keep your voice in good shape, worry about health and get your sleep.

"In my own concert, I can stop for a minute, change the order of the set or talk to the audience. But it's just me singing for two hours straight."

Idina revealed that she is working on a new album - to follow Still I Can't Be Still (1998), Here (2004) and I Stand (2008).

"It's still in the writing stages," she said. "I'm recording with producers and songwriters who inspire me.

"I feel creative, putting my heart out there and exploring different sounds. I'm not limiting myself.

"I'm writing from the heart. I'm not overthinking it, but trying to be free and open. I'm not putting any limitations on myself.

"No matter how old you are, there are still common themes that we can identify with each other, whether it's love or empowerment issues."

Idina sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in February in front of 100,000 at the University of Phoenix Stadium and countless millions around the world on TV.

But she revealed: "Singing for the president and also for Barbra Streisand was more nervewracking.

"I was excited to be at the Super Bowl. Ever since I saw Whitney Houston sing the National Anthem better than anyone, I wanted to do it.

"I did a good job of trying to have fun with it."

Idina said her favourite part of touring was "bonding with my musicians. It's the same as when I'm in a theatre show when I bond with my cast.

"I like exploring the world with this family".

After her world tour finishes in October, Idina will be heading out on the road again, reprising her role in If/Then.

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